Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Two Deaths Nearly a Century Apart

On December 5, 1905, 19-year-old laborer Mrs. Annie Killhoff died at her home from an abortion performed there that day. Two physicians, Joseph Vassumpaur and Charles Boddiger, were arrested, Vassumpaur as the principle and Boddiger as an accessory. Patrick Dillon was also held as an accessory. The case, however, never went to trial. Annie's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more about abortion and abortion deaths in the first years of the 20th century, see Abortion Deaths 1900-1909.

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Fast forward nearly a century.

Seventeen-year-old Janice Gumm went to Dimensions Medical Center at 1455 Golf Road in Des Plaines, Illionis, for an abortion on December 5, 1998, to be performed under anesthesia. Her abortionist was Dr. Jesse Chandler, and the anesthesiologist was Dr. Murray Rosenberg of Hospital Anesthesia Group. The suit by Janice's survivors held that Dimensions failed to perform an adequate physical examination prior to the abortion, particularly in that they did not properly assess her increased risks due to the fact that she had asthma. As a result, Janice suffered an anesthesia-related complication that resulted in her death that day.

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